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Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an essential and integral element of a professional teacher/assessors expertise. Practitioner knowledge develops and transfers at an unprecedented pace in the digital age and specialist teachers need to stay at the forefront of all information in the field and to have access to the latest resources. 

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Why buy your child a smartphone?

What age is too young to have a smartphone? This question is sometimes about cost. A smartphone can be useful for a child from very early on to do things like:

  • Read books or short pieces of information
  • Listen to books, podcasts and music
  • Create photos, collages, videos or drawings or even texts with dictation
  • Learn information from the web or using interactive apps
  • Play games, interact with friends – many of these things also can teach children about life

Of course, you want to make sure your child gets a balanced experience of growing up and learning with and without technology. But a smartphone can be one of the tools used in the process.

But smartphones are expensive and children will lose or break them. So parents put off buying a smartphone for their child until a bit later. This post is about some low-cost options that are suitable for everyone but may be a good choice for children.

Tablet or phone?

Smartphones and tablets mostly use the same operating system. This is either Android on devices from companies like Samsung, Acer, ASUS, etc. or iOS on iPhones or iPads from Apple. (Note: Some tablets have Windows running on them which is different from the Windows Phone.)

It may surprise you, but tablets are much cheaper than phones. A top level smartphone will typically cost over £500 without subsidies and sometimes will come close to £800. But a very good tablet can be had for £100 and typically no more than about £300 (although the top level iPad is over £500).

The only difference between a phone and a tablet is size and ability to make calls. So if your child already has a tablet, maybe you can just buy them a very cheap phone for £10 to be able to get in touch with them. But most people find space in their lives for both a tablet and a smartphone.

I use large phones, so if I didn’t have to review a lot of tablets, I would probably just stick with my phone.

What does a cheap smartphone mean?

Contract or unlocked?

You can walk away with a phone for nothing if you sign up for a 2-year contract of high monthly payments. But if you lose or break your phone, you’ll have to pay the full price for a replacement.

With many contracts it is worth adding up the sums to see if it would not be cheaper overall to buy the phone and go pay as you go or have a cheaper contract.

iPhone, Android or Windows?

There are three types of smartphones available. Which should you buy?

  • Android offers the greatest range of cheap options and most of this post will mostly focus on Android devices.
  • iPhone is the most expensive of the phones and if you want a phone under £250 or even £100 you will either have to buy a used one or look elsewhere.
  • Windows Phone is the least popular but you can get some of the best deals on Windows phones. But almost none of the most popular apps will be available – including a decent YouTube app.

What do you give up with a cheap smartphone?

The answer is that if you’re willing to spend about £200, you don’t have to give up almost anything. You may not have all the latest bells and whistles but you can get a phone that compares well with a much more expensive device and sometimes even exceeds it. Generally, you will be about one year behind the cutting edge but phones don’t age as quickly as it may seem. For instance, a 3-year old iPhone 5c is still too expensive to make our list here.

If you want to keep your cost under (or just over) £100, you will have to expect the following:

  • Lower screen resolution (but still very usable)
  • Lower camera resolution (but generally still decent)
  • Less storage space (8GB-16GB instead of 32GB-64GB) but often you can add a cheap SD card to extend that
  • Lower speed in top level games (but most games and apps will run just fine)

Generally, battery life does not suffer much with cheap phones and it may be even a bit more because the lower spec processor and screen take less power.

Cheap mid-level smartphones (Under or around £100)

These phones can generally be bought for around £100, sometimes for as little as £60-£80 if you can find a deal. Because these change so quickly, I link to a review of the phone instead of a shop. You can see a longer list of cheap phones  or even longer list on the web. Here I only list phones with which I have some experience.

  • Moto E cheapest but very usable Android phone. I bought this for my mother last year and she is very happy with it. It only comes with 4GB of storage, so you should budget at least £10 for an SD card.
  • Moto G is the next level up from the Moto E – about £30 more. This is a phone my brother bought and likes a lot.
  • LG G2 Mini is a great little phone that is surprisingly good in many ways. One of my aunts has been very happy with it.
  • Nokia (Microsoft) Lumia 535 this is possibly the cheapest smartphone out there. But it also has lower specs than any of the Android phones listed above and runs Windows Phone which means very few apps. This is a phone one of our colleagues bought for her daughter. It works just fine but lack of apps is a problem. An even cheaper and more limited Lumia 435 is also available.

Cheap top-level smartphones (Under £250)

Budget top-level smartphones are also available some for not much more than some of the mid-range phones reviewed above. There is less selection here but you can still find enough to meet most of your needs. You can watch this video review of budget top-level phones to help you decide.

  • OnePlus One is the phone I’ve been using for almost a year. It now costs only £179 for the 16GB version and £219 for 64GB. This is a 5.5in phone – same size as the Galaxy Note or iPhone Plus but about 1 third the price. There is not much about even the best phones that is not also available in this phone.
  • Asus Zenphone 2 has been getting very positive press and can be had for almost exactly £200. It’s main criticism has been lower quality screen.
  • Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is only being released in the UK this week but it has already had very good reviews around the world. It will be available for just over £200. Its stand out feature is support for two SIM cards.
  • Moto X is a well regarded phone from 2014 and has just seen a price reduction to over £200.
  • Xiaomi mi 4i is a well-reviewed phone at about £200, it is worth a look.
  • Huawei Ascend G7 is another larger phone for £200 which is a worthy contender as is its smaller sister the Honor 6.

Are there cheap iPhones?

If you really want an iPhone and perhaps don’t care that much about making calls, you could consider an iPod Touch which starts as low as £159 (with 16GB of storage). This is a model from 2013 but it should still work fine with most apps.

What should we cover next?

If you’d like to suggest what else this blog can cover, you can add your voice to the roadmap document.

Image credits

·        1-2: Pixabay

·        3-4: Screenshots from Motoroal and OnePlus One websites

At the end of July the summer holidays look as if they are stretching out in front of us forever.  Six weeks can feel like a very long time!  The books that I have selected this month should give you lots of ideas of things to do whatever the weather and whether you are at home or away on holiday.

If you want to set yourself a challenge for the summer and you are aged four to eleven then visit your local library and take part in The Summer Reading Challenge.  It’s free to take part!  You simply register at your local library and receive your record breaking themed challenge pack.  You then undertake the challenge to read 6 books in 6 weeks.  You select the books you read – fiction or non-fiction, graphic novels and audio books are among the books you can choose from. Or you could choose your six books from the list below!

Where’s Wally? by Martin Handford        Age 7 and above

‘Where’s Wally?’ is the first in the Where’s Wally series and was created over 25 years ago.  Follow Wally on a trip around the world, searching for him, his girlfriend Wanda, Woof the dog, Odlaw and Wizard Whitebeard in each scene. You can also look for the hundreds of items on ‘The Great Where’s Wally Checklist’ in the back of the book.

Where's Wally

© Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ

Puzzle Island (Child's Play Library) by Paul Adshead         Age 7 and above

Ambrose Forgarty has written you to you asking you to take a trip to puzzle island.  He needs your help to solve the puzzles and save the one of the rarest creatures in the world from extinction.  On each page there are animals hidden in the beautiful illustrations of the different parts of the island.  The missing letters on the edge of each page need to be rearranged to make the names of the hidden animals.  

Errata: A Book of Historical Errors  By AJ Wood  Illustrated by Hemesh Alles    Age 8 and above

An aeroplane flying over an Aztec village and power tools being used to help build The Great Wall of China – surely that can’t be right! In this historical activity book the reader is taken through twelve different eras in history and challenged to find the historical errors hidden in the pictures.  Correct versions of the illustrations are provided, along with information about each of the different periods in history.

RSPB 365 outdoor activities you have to try  by DK and RSPB    Age 5 and above

With outdoor activities for all interests and abilities this is a great book of ideas to get the whole family exploring the natural world.  The clear step-by-step instructions and photographs show you want to do and most of the activities only need resources such as paper, sand or soil.  If you’re planning a holiday where you want to be outdoors whatever the weather then this is the book for you!

The stick book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield        Age 5 and above

Picking up a stick is a natural thing for a child to do.  This book contains lots of suggestions regarding what to do with your stick once you have it.  The ideas range from building a den to making a wind chime, are mostly cheap or inexpensive and often lead to adventure!  Find yourself a stick and get reading!

The super book for super heroes    Age 8 and up

Creating your own superhero universe is easy once you have this book to help you!  It contains hints and tips on drawing villains and creating superheroes.  There are many ideas about superhero hideouts, outfits and gadgets.  You can also send secret messages using a code wheel and even turn yourself into a superhero using a mask – just remember not to tell anyone your secret identity!

How to write your best story ever – Chris Edge    Age 7 and up

If you want to spend your summer holidays writing stories then this is the book for you!  Detailed explanations of literary words and quotes from a wide range of stories help you to understand how professional writers write stories. There are sections devoted to a wide range of different types of stories you could write from crime and thrillers to comedy and romance, and all of these are accompanied by hints, tips and vocabulary suggestions related to the genre.

The Usborne travel activity book by Rebecca Gilpin illustrated by Erica Harrison

Colourful pages offer a wide range of things to do while you are travelling between places or once you arrive at your destination.  There are doodles to draw, games to play, codes to crack, puzzles to solve and lots, lots more.  

The Usborne travel activity book

© Usborne Children’s Books

How to be a spy by Dan Waddell  illustrated by Nikalas Catlow        Age 8 and up

Spotting double agents, beating lie detector tests and ways of passing information to other spies are all covered in this book.  Learn how to create a secret identity and become a spy during your summer break.  Factual information is shared with the reader in an interactive way with flaps to lift.  At the same time as developing your own spy skills you can follow the story of Agent X, an ordinary boy whose long-lost uncle has recruited to become a spy.

How to be a spy

© Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ

The Great Race Maze by Anna Nilsen        Age 7 and up

Get ready for a fantastic trip around the world from the Arctic through, Moscow and ending up in Australia!  Travel in many different ways including submarines and sleighs, boats and trains.  Beware of the detours, pitfalls and hazards you might meet on the way and try not to get lost in the maze!
These are just a few of the fantastic activity books that are available at your local library or book shop.  If you have a particular area of interest or a favourite television character then there is probably an activity book out there just for you! Enjoy your summer and enjoy your reading!


Read, share, enjoy!

I hope that this monthly blog will give readers ideas about which books might appeal to those who are reluctant to read or have dyslexia. Dyslexia Action’s leaflet encouraging young reluctant readers is a good start for those who are looking to support young reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia. Dyslexia Action also offers tuition with specialist teachers to support those who may need extra help. Once needs have been identified, our specialist teachers can work with children, young people and adults to develop coping strategies that can assist with skills like reading and writing. For some, extra tuition can be a life-line.

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

 Reading hints and tips leaflet for young reluctant readers


Plans to help more people

In 2013 we launched an ambitious five year strategy to help more people with dyslexia, literacy and numeracy difficulties. 

An estimated one in 10 people in the UK are affected by dyslexia, and with much of what we do at school and throughout life requiring us to have the skills to be able to read and write fluently and accurately, it is vital that people receive the support they need.

We believe that for all that has been achieved in the last 40 years, there is still much to be done and that too many people with dyslexia are still being failed in education, the workplace, or when seeking work and we are committed to improving this situation.

The strategy sets out three key aims, which are to:

  • Support improvement in education provision;
  • Provide direct support to individuals;
  • Lead the agenda for change.

In order to reach the aims set out in this strategy we have been reviewing what, where, and how we do things.

As part of this, we are hoping over the next few years, to make some changes to the locations of our Learning Centres, based across Great Britain. 

The Learning Centres offer free information and advice to people in their local area, alongside providing support, assessments, specialist tuition and free courses such as literacy catch-up clubs, which help to make a real difference to the many people affected by dyslexia, literacy or numeracy difficulties. The new model will enable the centres to both retain a high quality service for local learners, whilst also expanding our capacity to support education providers, employers and adults in or looking to access employment.

Speaking about the changes, Kevin Geeson, Chief Executive of Dyslexia Action explains “this is an exciting step to enable us to help a greater number of people. We hope to do this in a variety of ways, by working with more schools, to support both teachers and pupils, and also helping more adults who are experiencing difficulties in the work place.” Mr Geeson went on to add that, “while it may mean some changes need to be made to the locations of our Learning Centres, we hope to keep at least the same number of Centres and over time add more. We are also not looking to move out of the local communities that we already offer support in.”

You can read our five year strategy in full here


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